A/N: Early this summer I made an off-hand comment to a friend that I needed to find some new shows to watch, preferably open-canon shows that I could gleefully immerse myself in. She obliged by introducing me to Bones. This story, my first in the Bones fandom, is written in response to her request for Brennan/enclosed spaces. My thanks go out to Amy, both for the introduction, and for her cheerful willingness to beta.
They don't turn her loose for hours. First there's evidence to collect and questions to answer. Then there's the trip to the hospital, more questions, more evidence, an exam, and then, finally, reluctant release with the caveat that she drinks plenty of water and gets some rest. She holds her head high the whole time, gives clear, concise answers, and makes it a point to find out how Hodgins is doing. Booth knows the kind of strength that takes. So does the doctor, who comments in an aside that he's never seen anybody come through something so traumatic in such good shape.
But Booth sees what the doctor doesn't. The faint tightness at the corners of her eyes. The tension in her jaw. She isn't as unscathed as they think.
It's late by the time they cut through the last of the red tape, though not as late as the leaden sky makes it seem. Fat drops begin to fall as he guides her to the car. One paints a gray streak through the dirt on her cheek. Another hits her shoulder. She flinches a little, but says nothing. He opens the door, waits for her to settle, closes it again, his jaw clenched against the worry that gnaws at his gut.
She's quiet on the drive back to her apartment, her hands in her lap, her face turned toward the window. She carries the smell of dust with her, wears it in her hair and on her clothes. Somehow it's worse than all the blood and gore they've waded through on the cases they've worked together. He presses harder on the gas pedal, ignoring the speed limit even as he scans the road for cops. His badge is enough to get him out of a speeding ticket, but he doesn't want to take time to explain. He just wants to get her home.
They reach shelter before the storm breaks. She doesn't argue when he follows her inside, just locks the door and drops her keys on the table. He takes off his jacket and lays it across the back of the couch while he watches her move through the apartment. There's an unaccustomed jerkiness to her actions as she systematically turns on every light, then checks the latch on each window. Helpless fury balls his fists at his sides.
She moves away from him to the bedroom door. He wants to help her, but he doesn't know how. "Bones ..."
"No." Her head snaps toward him. Her gaze is flat. Cold. "I don't ..." Her throat moves convulsively. A sheen of moisture appears in her eyes. She blinks once, hard, then spins away.
A second later the bedroom door closes behind her.
Fighting the temptation to slam his fist into a wall, he moves into the kitchen. Thunder reverberates against the window as he yanks open the fridge and grabs a beer. When he lowers the bottle from his mouth, it's half empty. He doesn't remember swallowing.
Rain slides off the windows in rushing torrents, and he wishes it could wash away the past two days as easily as it washes the grime from the glass. It isn't quite dusk, but the intensity of the storm has triggered the streetlights. He's not thinking about the weather, though. He's thinking about what would've happened if he hadn't been looking in just the right direction when Bones blew the air bags. Remembering, he glances down at his hands. There's dirt under the nails. Gravedigger dirt.
He's at the sink, elbow deep in soap, when there's a flash of lightning followed by a muffled boom. He knows that sound, and a curse is already forming on his lips when the lights flicker once, twice ... and then stay off.
"Damn." Thunder swallows his voice and spits it out again on a growl as he rinses his hands. Luckily the apartment isn't so dark that he has to feel his way around like a blind man on a subway platform. He finds a candle in the living room and rifles through the drawers in the kitchen for matches. The flame casts macabre shadows on the walls when he goes to check on Bones.
The bedroom door is closed. He presses his ear against it, but hears only silence. Bones would be quick to tell him there's no logical reason for the unease that crawls up his spine. To hell with logic.
"Bones? You okay in there?"
The ensuing silence is shattered by another crack of thunder. He jiggles the knob, relieved to find it unlocked. She'll be pissed at him if he walks in on her while she's dressing, but if he breaks the door down to do it she's liable to set her flesh-eating bugs loose on him.
He cracks the door open a few inches. "Bones? You decent?"
When she doesn't answer, he pushes into the room. Empty. The bathroom door is closed. He hears running water over the sounds of the storm and feels foolish. Two closed doors, a storm, and the shower. No wonder she hadn't heard him.
"Bones?" When she doesn't answer this knock either, the back of his neck starts to tingle again. "Bones, you better say something now if you don't want me in there."
The only response is another rumble of thunder. His mind conjures an image of a naked and soap-slicked Bones, and his mouth goes dry. He wages a silent war with himself, then reaches for the knob, hesitating for an instant when it turns easily in his hand.
"Bones ...?" He keeps his voice low this time, not wanting to startle her. "You okay in here?"
Edging into the room, he sets the candle on the side of the sink. And that's when he hears it. The quiet, desperate whimpers that make his breath seize in his throat. With a low curse he grabs a towel. Sweeps the shower curtain aside. And finds her huddled on the bottom of the tub, arms wrapped around her drawn up legs, chin tucked into her knees. She's rocking back and forth, ignoring the water beating down on her head.
"Shit," he says softly, too softly for her to hear above the running water. "Shit, shit, shit."
Normally he's pretty content to let judge and jury determine a criminal's fate. Not this time. This time he'd welcome the chance to mete out punishment himself. The person who reduced his partner to panicked immobility deserves to die.
With a flick of the wrist, he turns off the shower. "Hey, Bones. It's okay." He uses the same low tones he uses for victims of violent crime and tries not to think about the fact that that's exactly what she is. His Bones isn't a victim. His Bones is strong and self-reliant--and not afraid of anything.
She startles when he wraps the towel around her shoulders, her breath coming in great, heaving gulps.
"It's okay, I'm here." He hopes his voice is enough to bring her back from the nightmare in her head. "You're safe, now. It's over."
The towel's thick, and thirsty, and when he tucks the edges under her chin she has the presence of mind to tangle her fingers in the fabric. He lifts her to her feet and helps her out of the tub, shaking his head when she offers a weak protest.
"Shut up, Bones." Some of what he's feeling must be in his voice, because she flinches. With a conscious effort, he softens his tone. "Please. Just this once, shut up and let me help you."
He reaches for the robe on the back of the door. Eyes averted, he holds it for her while she pushes her arms into the sleeves. Her fingers tremble when they brush against his, but she straightens her shoulders as she knots the tie at her waist, and a second later she takes a half step back. Her eyes come up to his. There's a haunted look in their depths that makes him stifle another curse.
"Thanks," she says quietly.
He brushes a droplet of water from her cheek with the back of one finger. "What are friends for?"
She rewards him with a shaky smile, and despite himself his eyes snag on hers. The shifting glow of candlelight against her skin hypnotizes him. He feels himself leaning in, his body instinctively seeking the warmth of hers, and he's distantly aware that this is a bad thing, but he can't remember why. Then her tongue darts out to glide along her bottom lip, and he watches, spellbound, until it disappears again. He wants to follow it, like Alice chasing after the white rabbit. What does she taste like? Are her lips as soft as they look? And if he kisses her, will she draw him in or push him away?
The lights come on just as he decides to throw caution to the wind, and the sudden harsh glare shatters the moment. He blinks. Straightens. Steps away. Awkward now, he gestures.
"I'll just, um, let you get dressed."
She nods. One corner of her mouth tilts up, just a little. He wonders what she's thinking.
The lights dim for a instant, then surge back. There's a part of him that wishes they'd stay off. "Would you like some tea? Or something?"
"No, but there's a bottle of wine in the fridge." Her voice is calm, but there's a knowing look in her eyes. Is she disappointed, too?
"Wine," he says, backing out of the room. "Right."
"Yeah?" He's halfway across the bedroom by now, but he stops and turns back at the sound of her voice.
"There's a bottle of Scotch in the cabinet next to the sink."
His eyes close briefly as he offers up a silent prayer of thanks. "You want some?"
Her voice comes back muffled, and he figures she's probably towel-drying her hair. "Just wine, thanks."
By the time she emerges from the bedroom he's sitting on the couch. Their drinks are on the coffee table in front of him, hers at one end, his at the other. He resists the urge to move hers next to his.
It's almost the old Bones who sits down next to him and reaches for the wine glass. Her face is composed, her hands steady. But he notices she hasn't turned off any of the lights.
They sip their drinks in silence, and Booth wonders how long it'll be before she tells him to go home.
"I have this ... thing," she says finally. "About being buried alive." Her voice is low, and there's a hint of embarrassment behind the words. "I don't understand it. Phobias are by definition irrational, and I'm a very rational person." Her eyes slide away from his. She takes a breath. "Besides. I knew you would find us."
She says that last the same way she might say that a skeleton belonged to a seventeen-year-old female who played tennis, ran track, and broke her left arm in a skating accident when she was eight. It stuns him, that calm certainty, but apparently she doesn't notice because she's still talking.
"But I knew it might take you a while, and I didn't want to run down the battery. So while Hodgins was unconscious I turned off the ignition." Her voice hitches in her throat. "I've never seen darkness like that, Booth. It was like . . . like the whole world was just gone." There's something desolate about the way she says it that makes him want to gather her into his arms, but he settles for a light touch on her shoulder before dropping his hand to the couch beside hers.
"Well it isn't dark now," he says, trying for levity. "But your next book advance is going to have to go to the power company."
She snorts lightly at that, and he sees a hint of a smile in her eyes. They sit together in quiet camaraderie for a few minutes, but when Booth slants a sideways glance at her he sees that she's still tense.
"How long was he out?" he asks quietly, because he knows that the only way she's going to get through this is to talk it out.
"It seemed like days," she says, "but it was probably only a couple of hours." She shakes her head. "It was so quiet." Her eyes lock on his, and he senses there's something important in what she's about to say. "Deathly quiet."
"You couldn't see," he says quietly, "and you couldn't hear"--he shifts his hand so that his fingertips rest against hers--"but you could touch."
She nods, takes another sip of her wine. "And I could think."
The satisfied tone in her voice makes him laugh, and she gives him a puzzled look.
"Yeah, Bones," he says, still smiling at her. "You could think." It is, after all, what she does best.
She tilts her head a little, confused, but he doesn't try to explain. Brilliant as she is, she wouldn't understand.
"You know," he says, because if he can't trust Bones with his deepest secrets, who can he trust? "I've got a bit of a . . . thing, too."
He feels the curiosity in her eyes even though his own gaze stays focused on the last swallow of Scotch in his glass.
The breath he takes is a deep one. It's a risk, he knows, telling her this. She isn't exactly well-known for her discretion. Still a little public humiliation is a small price to pay for a smile.
There's a long silence, and he risks a quick look in her direction. Sure enough, she's staring at him with that look that says she's thinking maybe he just dropped in from Mars or something.
"That's right, Bones. Birds." Irritated now, and half-convinced he's made a huge mistake, he shrugs. "I blame it on Hitchcock."
Now it's his turn to stare. "You're kidding me. You don't know who Alfred Hitchcock is?"
She shakes her head, and he can tell by the blank look on her face that she's serious. "Is he another one of your army buddies?"
With a short laugh, he downs the last of the Scotch. "Not exactly." He relaxes back against the couch and lets his eyes drift closed. "But I promise I'll introduce you sometime."
"I don't understand. If he isn't your friend, how are you going to introduce us?"
Something about her voice makes him open his eyes again. "Are you messing with me?" he asks suspiciously. He gives her a hard stare. "You are, aren't you."
"No. Really. I have no idea who this Hitchcock person is."
He doesn't quite believe her, but at least she's smiling now, and that awful haunted look is gone from her eyes. With casual intent, he weaves his fingers through hers and drops his head back against the couch.
"Right, Bones. Whatever."
There's another long pause, but she doesn't pull her hand away, and even with his eyes closed he can tell that she's finally relaxed.
"You do know ornithophobia isn't rational, don't you? Birds don't actually attack humans unless they're defending their nests, and even then--"
A moment later he feels her shift. There's a quiet click.
And the lamp at the end of the couch turns off.